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    ICANN Staff and Structure Dept. of Not-Too-Much-Accountability?
    posted by michael on Saturday August 24 2002, @04:42PM

    ICANN today posted Becky Burr's implementation recommendations pursuant to the 'Reform' committee's suggestion that what it calls accountability mechanisms be improved -- a suggestion that comes at the same time that the committee has put forward proposals to eliminate the Board's electoral accountability to anyone but itself. The committee asked for suggestions that were limited to things the Board could over-rule, with the exception of an expensive international arbitration procedure that would be well beyond the means of most domain name registrants. Like a good lawyer, Ms. Burr executed the mission subject to the (non-paying?) client's request, but to her credit she also said that her "recommendations address the limited scope of the ERC's request for assistance, and should not be viewed as a statement of support for the adequacy of the accountability mechanisms detailed in the Blueprint." Let's not forget that caveat: there is a pattern here -- last week even the people in the rump ALAG stated that its recommendations were contrary to "its members' preferred approach to individual user (At-Large) participation or representation within ICANN." Certainly, the accountability mechanisms discussed in the Burr report are much tamer than the ones advocated in the recent Tamar Frankel accountability study commissioned by the Markle Foundation.



    While technically proficient, Ms. Burr's recommendations are innocent of the reality of ICANN. (Ask the wrong questions, get the wrong answers?) The most obvious example of this is the acceptance of the idea of an ICANN staff person to be the "Manager of Public Participation". We've just witnessed a fairly glaring example of how ICANN thinks public participation should be "managed" -- a process that was designed to make darn sure that key public participants were kept away from the drafting table (it's complicated; get the details and the links in Alas, ALAC).

    So, unless something far more substantial is done to prevent it, what will be "Managed" here is the public: the person's job will be to explain to the public what ICANN is doing, and make them like it: i.e. "to prevent disputes with ICANN staff and the Board by increasing public understanding of and enhancing public participation in ICANN's work." As for the ombudsman proposal, an honest ombudsperson certainly couldn't hurt -- maybe ICANN staff would start answering emails from the public, such as Richard Henderson who says he's been waiting 130 days for an answer, or even an acknowledgment, from ICANN regarding his requests for information -- but an honest ombudsman is not much of a substitute for either representation (often the cornerstone of accountability) or an accessible independent review panel of the sort that we were promised, and which ICANN has always feared. (See, for example, Independent Review Board -- R.I.P.?.)

    And as for the proposal that there be outside arbitration on claims ICANN violated its bylaws, here are two things to consider. One, ICANN will have every incentive to make this process as expensive as possible, to deter complaints in its loser-pays model. Two, would it do anything about this? (Note: Vint Cerf's point-by-point rebuttal (not) to this claim of by-laws violation is available in its entirety here.)

    It's lovely to see ICANN getting expert advice on how to organize itself. This is a Good Thing. Really. What a pity, though, that this expertise is being deployed in what is largely window-dressing to detract from the fundamental flaws in the 'Reform'.

    Full disclosure: ICANNWatch has applied to the Markle Foundation for a grant to pay for an upgrade to our increasingly beastly software.

     
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    Dept. of Not-Too-Much-Accountability? | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 4 comments | Search Discussion
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    Re: Dept. of Not-Too-Much-Accountability?
    by fnord (groy2kNO@SPAMyahoo.com) on Sunday August 25 2002, @01:44AM (#8694)
    User #2810 Info
    Innocent of the reality of ICANN? Yawn... 1, 2, 3, 4, what are we fighting for? At some point the rest of the world might tire of this mess, set up their own rootservers, and include the ICANN legacy ones if they play nice. Well, we can dream, can't we? -g
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